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10 Apr 2023


PM2.5 crisis could get much worse if it is not quickly dealt with (Current Issue No.3401)


        The PM2.5 pollution is not a short-term crisis. It will likely become much worse in the coming years as the La Niña events seen over the past three years are set to be followed by a prolonged El Niño phase soon. This means that global temperatures will likely increase amid global warming. According to the Air Quality Monitoring Station at Sri Phum Sub-district, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai, the province’s air quality so far in April 2023 is the worst ever recorded in many years while the number of hot spots in Thailand and neighboring countries has hit a three-year high.
        Aside from automobile exhaust, and emissions from industrial plants and construction projects, burning of crops before the new planting season such as maize, off-season rice and sugarcane has also contributed to the rising level of PM2.5 on average since late 2022. Meanwhile, it is projected that a combined output of maize, off-season rice and sugarcane in the northern region of Thailand in 2023 will increase by roughly 5.28 million tons over-year.  
        Due to the severity of PM2.5 pollution in the upper northern region, we at KResearch estimate that opportunity costs in its tourism during the five days of the Songkran Festival (April 13-17, 2023) will reach at least THB700 million. Typically, the amount of spending by Thai tourists in the nine northern provinces of Thailand during this period totals approximately THB2 billion each year. According to a poll on domestic travel during the Songkran Festival, the number of Bangkok residents intending to visit such northern provinces, particularly Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, fell by 30 percent on average from that reported during the same period of last year. Such impact on other provinces such those in the northeast region or even the Bangkok Metropolitan Region may vary, however.  
        Aside from tourism, the PM2.5 crisis has also affected public health, which is difficult to quantify in terms of economic values as the assessment must take into account both the short and long-term impacts of the related respiratory diseases.  
        Given this, immediate actions to combat the PM2.5 pollution are needed, particularly at the most-affected provinces, along with the implementation of measures to support the transition of supply chains within both the manufacturing and service sectors towards environmental sustainability as losses to the economy and public health, and impacts on environmental sustainability may increase if this issue is left unaddressed.